Homeopathy: There's nothing to it

By Phil Plait | February 5, 2011 11:20 am

Homeopathy is very popular in America, Australia, and other countries. Thing is, it doesn’t work. There’s no medicine in it, there’s no science behind it, and tests have shown repeatedly and without question that there’s no medicinal effect in it beyond that of a placebo.

And yet, homeopathic sugar pills are being sold next to real medicine at pharmacies across the planet, including RiteAid, Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens in the US. People take these non-drugs, spending billions — billions — of dollars on what is provably nonsense.

That’s why the 10:23 campaign started, to show that homeopathy doesn’t work. People all over the world are gathering this weekend to raise awareness of this. Homeopathy is not harmless. People are taking these pills instead of real medicine, in many cases making them sicker, and in far too many cases dying because of it.

James Randi made a short video to promote the campaign. If there is a local version in your area, go take a look and show them your support.


Related posts:

- Homeopathy kills
- British Medical Association: homeopathy is witchcraft
- Homeopathy made simple
- Canadian TV slams homeopathy

Comments (126)

  1. T. Miller

    Thanks for continuing to spread the word Phil. I subscribed to you for astronomy, but I can tolerate a little stupid crushing now and again.

  2. Take some homeopathic medicine and dump it in the ocean. Now all the water in the world is diluted and there is no longer any need to buy anything.

  3. If they were rounding Avogadro’s Constant, shouldn’t it be 10:24? Just saying…

    I think swallowing a whole bottle of homeopathic pills in front of shocked on-lookers sounds awesome.

    Also, that’s reminds me of a joke i heard Randi make once: “Did you hear about the guy that overdosed? He forgot to take his medicine!”

    Hey, I just thought of a great test/trick: Homeopaths say that the more dilute something is, the more effective it is, right? So, conversely, the more concentrated it is, the less effective it should be. So, let’s make some pills of pure arsenic or cyanide and challenge them to swallow them. If they’re right, they should be fine, shouldn’t they? If not, well…problem solved. MWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!

  4. Gary Ansorge

    “Please don’t drink the KoolAid.”,,,or, in this case, the water, since it has the “memory” of every critter that has ever pooped or reproduced in it.

    Yuck!!!

    Gary 7

  5. Mike

    It seems to be even more popular in France. The pharmacies have sections of the store devoted to homeo-concoctions.

  6. Goncalo

    It’s sad that homeopathy continues to hurt people around the world. Recently, here in Portugal, a clinic was closed down (there were other reasons too, but the homeopathic thing got my attention) after some patients got worse when they took some homeopathic injections to heal back issues.

  7. Scottie Davis

    “Take some homeopathic medicine and dump it in the ocean. Now all the water in the world is diluted and there is no longer any need to buy anything.”
    I thought this was funny.
    Anyway, how is this legal?
    HOW?

  8. spat

    Nowadays, some people still think that Galileo is a fool.

  9. Minos

    @Gary Arndt and Scottie Davis:
    That’s a question I’ve wanted to ask a homeopath for a long time. What do they do with the intermediate results of their dilution? Obviously, they’re not making even all of the 10C dilutions they could from 1ml of active ingredient–that’s 10 million liters. They claim that even the lesser dilutions have potency, so surely they must have some responsible method for disposing of them?

    Oh, and if you wanted to turn the entire ocean into a homeopathic remedy I think you might need an impact event to succuss it.

  10. Oh, alternatively, if you don’t want to go to jail on suspicion of murder, use capsaicin. You can take a bunch of, say, 30C capsaicin pills, while they can have a pinch of pure capsaicin. Watch the hilarity ensue.

  11. Floyd

    My wife insisted that I take some kind of homeopathic medicine once. Not surprisingly, nothing happened.

    Minos has it right. “Infinite dilutions” mean that homeopathy is just like taking nothing in water.

  12. Universal

    kudos to phil

    not just Homeopathy the cosmetic market and health detox market is full of rubbish too.

    ben was recently on twit talking about bad science and this subject

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYQVEW2JLJg

  13. Michel

    How to be a homeopathic bioterrorist:
    kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2007/09/12/howto-be-a-homeopathic-bioterrorist/

  14. Keith Bowden

    I just watched Randi’s video a little while ago through my wall on Facebook. Great stuff. Fighting the forces of Woo!

  15. David George

    I went to the CSI and CFI page you linked, and found:

    “… we hope Walmart will act appropriately out of a sense of ethical obligation. The cooperation of good corporate citizens is indispensable if public consumers are to rely on the claims of health-remedy producers and the companies that market their products.”

    I have to laugh at the oxymoronic “good corporate citizen”. Would that not be one which maximized the return to its shareholders? Is the current “prosperity” (read “obesity” and “waste”) of western civilization not due to the tireless work of fraudsters, confidence tricksters and thugs?

    As for the harm done by selling useless remedies to suckers, I would say that deaths due to useless remedies pale in comparison to the deaths due to procedures and treatment in “good corporate citizen” hospitals, or to use of “approved” medicines (those which beat the placebo).

  16. QuietDesperation

    Nowadays, some people still think that Galileo is a fool.

    This caught my eye. Who does, and in what way?

  17. Joel

    It would be very hard to convince pharmacies not to sell these products. Federal law needs to be changed so if you sell a placebo, you can’t make any special claims for it just by calling it homeopathic.

  18. Wayne on the Plains

    Okay, so here’s something I’ve been thinking about doing, I’d like to know if anyone else has tried it and with what results.

    Go down to the local pharmacy, take some homeopathic remedy off the shelf, and take it back to the pharmacist. Ask the pharmacist to tell you about the medicine and see what they say. If they tell you it’s not real medicine, ask them why they are selling it as such. If they don’t, keep asking questions about the active ingredients and what “homeopathy” means to see if they either don’t know or if they are just going to give you BS until you buy it.

    I think you could learn a lot about what your pharmacist really thinks about it in this way, but I’m afraid I won’t like what I find out. Also, I realize that with a retail chain those sorts of decisions aren’t made at the local level, but you would think a pharmacist would have some power to disclaim the products he is forced to sell.

  19. Let’s not forget What’s The Harm: http://whatstheharm.net

    Tim runs a great site, and it shows a lot of the consequences from this sort of delusion.

  20. Ken

    Minos @9: Personally, I’ve always wondered if maybe – just maybe – a few of the purveyors of homeopathic remedies don’t actually bother with all the dilutions. And maybe – just maybe – a few of them don’t even bother with any dilutions, or even include any of the original substance, and just sell bottled water. It’s not like there’s any government inspectors examining their production lines.

    But perhaps I’m just being overly cynical, and there is actually an organization that inspects and certifies homeopathic processing plants to ensure that the preparations conform to some published set of standards. If so, those standards would surely indicate what must be done with the intermediate dilutions.

  21. Michael

    Most people I talk to assume “homeopathic” is just a fancy word for “natural” or “herbal”, and are shocked when I tell them what homeopathy actually is. I suspect the large sales numbers are driven by people who are naively buying something they are mistaken about, and who would reject it if they just knew what the real definition was.

  22. Joseph G

    All I can say is, you’d better be damn careful if you want to replicate this “trick.” There are plenty of supplement-makers out there that use words like “homeopathic” as a buzzword, when the supplements are actually herbs (some of which shouldn’t even be available over the counter).

    To my eternal shame and embarrassment, I actually had to go to the hospital after taking a “caffeine-free all-natural herbal energy booster.” The suggested dose was 2 capsules, and I only took one, just to be on the safe side. Soon my pupils looked like dinner plates and my heart rate kept going up until I had to get someone to drive me to the emergency room at 1 in the morning – I found I was severely dehydrated, too. Turned out the stuff has Yohimbine in it, which is a powerful stimulant, overdose of which can cause a variety of symptoms up to and including heart and renal failure. And I had a major reaction to half a suggested dose. I’m sure I’d be dead if I swallowed a dozen of those things.
    I’m not saying it was marketed as homeopathic, but I’ve seen other herbal products being referred to as such, and those things can be as dangerous as homeopathy is ineffective.

  23. Joseph G

    @13 Michel:

    How to be a homeopathic bioterrorist:
    kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2007/09/12/howto-be-a-homeopathic-bioterrorist/

    That’s hilarious :D I so want to do that. That’d be great for “Talk Like a Pirate Day” – you could turn everyone in town into scurvy dogs :P

    Also, I loved this, in the comments:

    One can only imagine how homeopathic birth control is prepared.

    I’m picturing a guy with his pants down sitting in front of a very large vat of water, focusing intently on an adult magazine…

    Seriously, I wonder how homeopaths deal with the question of impurities in the water? Even with distilled water, you’re bound to have a couple of atoms of minerals floating around in there. Shouldn’t they have an affect too? Wouldn’t a few molecules of dissolved calcium carbonate put people in danger of metabolic acidosis?

  24. Crystal

    I have had a serious female issue that debilitated me and I tried nearly 50 things from ‘traditional’ medicine. None of them worked, and I would be on the floor basically having labor pains every 28 days – unable to move and barely able to speak. Then I tried this wonderful homeopathy product for my problem, and the damn thing allowed me to walk around and live my life. Has also helped with allergies, headache and several other issues immediately for me and many, many, many other people I know. This article is non-sense written purely because the pharmaceutical companies are finally seeing people figure out that nutrition, vitamins, exercise and other simple means can often cure and aid in most diseases and problems people face. What we put in our bodies directly AFFECTS our bodies. People are figuring it out slowly but surely (and finally), and it’s hurting the pharm exec’s wallets. I’d love to see the money trail that asked for this ‘science’ article to be written.

  25. Crystal (#25): Ah yes, random internet person, your story has convinced me. After all, there’s no way you could’ve just made it all up and written it here! And if it is true, then I assume you have done all the double-blind control testing to ensure that it wasn’t the placebo effect, or just spontaneous remission, or a pill that might have had an actual ingredient in it (quality control for homeopathic mixtures are notoriously poor).

    And it’s really easy to throw around accusations of a money trail, isn’t it? In fact the money trail is simple: Discover magazine pays me to blog through ads on the site. I guess American Apparel and Groupon are enthralled to Big Pharma, eh?

  26. Thomas Siefert

    Going by the internal logic of homeopathy. A homeopathic overdose stunt should consist of someone crushing a homeopathic sleeping pill to a fine powder in a mortar and take just one grain.

    The name “Crystal” immediately resonated with Tim Minchin’s beat poem “Storm”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0W7Jbc_Vhw

  27. Ron1

    @25. Crystal … Ummm, the midnight shift is gonna love you.

    …………………………………………………………….

    @24. Joseph G … I’m NOT drinking any water for a while.

  28. Lucy Kemnitzer

    It irks me deeply that every other month I have to patronize a drug store that largely deals in quackery, because they are the only compounding drugstore in the county and my dog’s medicine has to be compounded. Every time I go in there I want to pick a (verbal) fight.

  29. JB of Brisbane

    @Chrystal #25 – anecdotes and testimonials may convince the homeopath’s target market, but it takes more than that to establish something as fact. And it’s just as easy for me to accuse you of being a homeopath with a vested interest, or that someone paid you to post that comment.

  30. I’ve always wondered if homeopaths and their followers insist on pain meds when they go to the dentist? If so, why, when they can just wave some aspirin water under their noses and it should work. Right?

    Can we get a double blind study on this?

  31. Joseph G

    For anyone not averse to a little lengthy historical reading, here are two speeches given by Oliver Wendell Holmes, compiled and titled “Homeopathy and its Kindred Delusions.”
    Even back then, Homeopathy was seen by knowledgeable people like Holmes to be hogwash. Keep in mind that these were written almost 170 years ago! How far we haven’t come…

    http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/holmes/oliver_wendell/homeopathy/index.html

  32. Joseph G

    @Thomas Siefert: The name “Crystal” immediately resonated

    I see what you did there ;)

    @Ron1: @25. Crystal … Ummm, the midnight shift is gonna love you.

    Gonna be some skeptiiics, gettin’ right pissed
    On the nightshift
    I bet you’re slingin’ wooooo
    Oh, I bet they’ll flambe youuuu
    Gonna be a long niiiight, it’s gonna be aaaall right
    On the nightshift
    Oh you found some logic, I bet you’ll dodge it
    On the nightshift!

    @Crystal: I’ll give you more credit then you give Phil and assume that you’re sincere and not funded by a shadowy industry cabal or anything.
    Are you familiar with the concepts of self-limiting illness, placeb0 effect, and confirmation bias? If not, I’d be more then happy to explain them, and why they take precedence over personal anecdotes in cases like this.

  33. Martha

    For Crystal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0W7Jbc_Vhw

    By the way, sister you need to remember that despite whatever problems there are with modern medicine evidence based medicine has improved and saved more lives than all other forms of medicine combined through all of human history. Don’t forget that alt-med (Big Placebo) is also a multi billion dollar a year industry. They are in it for the money as much as the pharmaceutical companies.

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    @1. T. Miller Says:

    Thanks for continuing to spread the word Phil. I subscribed to you for astronomy, but I can tolerate a little stupid crushing now and again.

    Seconded by me. :-)

    Great idea here – sad that its necessary in this day & age.

    I think this will have the snake oil shysters homeopaths so worried they’ll be going to water! ;-)

  35. Messier Tidy Upper

    @25. Crystal :

    #33. Joseph G has told you : Are you familiar with the concepts of self-limiting illness, placebo effect, and confirmation bias? If not, I’d be more then happy to explain them, and why they take precedence over personal anecdotes in cases like this.

    & I’ll make it easy for you by giving you some wiki-links to help start your research – see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo

    &

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

    Wikipedia doesn’t have a page on “self-limiting” illness but the search does lead to this :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3ASearch&search=Self-limiting+illness&button=

    which gives you a few ideas and places to start. :-)

  36. Ernest

    @Crystal

    Sheesh! By the looks of it, it seems you have hit a raw nerve.

    Some incredibly thin-skinned people in here…

  37. Mary

    @24 Joseph I have often wondered the same thing. Homeopathgy claims water has memory. The minute/if any bit left of vthe original ‘healing’ substance is in water. What about that water? What is it ‘remembering’?

    @25 Crystal You said, “companies are finally seeing people figure out that nutrition, vitamins, exercise and other simple means can often cure and aid in most diseases and problems people face”. You did not say that you tried that route. If you did not have healthy life style habits while you were experiencing the problem and trying traditional medicines, then switched to a healthier life style at the same time as switching to the homeopathic ‘remedy’, who is to say for sure which helped your situation? That’s a problem with anecdotal reports—there is no establishment of acceptable controls or consideration of possibly other influencing factors. That renders the concluded assumptions quite unreliable.

  38. Lalitha

    Well guys,
    I don’t know much about the science behind it,But homeo has helped my mother with severe gynecological problems.She has been in great health for the past 15 years,after being advised a hysterectomy and refusing to undergo it.It has helped my son avoid bronchodilators and injections for wheezing for 14 years.He hasn’t needed medicines ,Homeo or otherwise ,for a long time now.All he needs now and then is may be a few pills of Rhus Tox 200.
    I too after nearly 37 years of asthma have been off inhalers and tablets for the past few years.So I say,Homeo may not be scientific,but it works,like many other inexplicable things in the world

  39. amphiox

    Oh, and if you wanted to turn the entire ocean into a homeopathic remedy I think you might need an impact event to succuss it.

    So that’s what really happened to the dinosaurs, then? All the water on the planet was turned into a homeopathic poison of dino pee?

  40. MartinM

    As for the harm done by selling useless remedies to suckers, I would say that deaths due to useless remedies pale in comparison to the deaths due to procedures and treatment in “good corporate citizen” hospitals, or to use of “approved” medicines (those which beat the placebo).

    Perhaps so, but conventional medicine has the minor advantage of actually helping some people, as opposed to magic water, which never helped anyone.

  41. Phil, you spent a lot of time debunking vaccine-autism link myth. Here’s a good article on CNN – Bill Gates: Vaccine-autism link ‘an absolute lie’: http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/02/03/gupta.gates.vaccines.world.health/index.html?hpt=C2

  42. Christopher R. Vesely, PharmD

    Dr Plait, as a licensed pharmacist (having spent most of my career in chains), let me assure you that not all of us pharmacists buy into the homeopathy pitch. The reason we have them on the shelves is because corporate big-wigs realize that there’s a stigma attached to allopathic medications thanks to the side effects. (A notable example is the FDA’s recent decision to limit the maximum dose of acetaminophen – Tylenol – in prescription medications to 325-mg in order to reduce the potential for liver damage in patients taking large doses of pain medications.) So, in order to keep that patient in the store who doesn’t want to buy traditional medications, they stock homeopathics. All the chains do it because the one chain that didn’t would find itself on the short end of the financial stick.

    For myself, I have occasionally recommended homeopathics as placebos, along with an explanation that there’s about as much to this overpriced package of silliness as there is in sticking your hand in a stump at midnight while chanting to cure a wart.

    Even after I explain that there isn’t any of the “medicinal” product in the homeopathic, some people roll their eyes and look at me like I just stepped out of a pod. For some people, they’d rather trust what Jenny McCarthy and Oprah have to say than professionals who spent years learning their trade and have to keep up with current advances in order to maintain their licenses.

    That’s my two percentum. I just felt a need to defend my profession, ’cause we’re not all pushing the “party line” when it comes to homeopathics.

  43. After the Randi video played, another video came up called, “Olavius2 Proves Homeopathy to James Randi”. In thinking about what this guy claims, and he didn’t prove anything in his video, I can see how some people might buy into homeopathy. If true, while I don’t understand how the experiment causes the effects he claims, I don’t really see how it relates to homeopathic cures. I guess it would be labeled as anecdotal.

    However, in doing MY due diligence, I ran across many sites that refute the video. The one I liked best is http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2007/08/charles-darwin-and-homeopathy.html

  44. Alex

    To set one thing right in the beginning, I am an atheist, I am a sceptic and I always or better most of the time going for 100% logic.

    Then most scientists always tell religious people that it is wrong to replace things they don’t know with God or conspiracy theory.

    Now, ironically asking, shouldn’t WE guys, who are convince in science ask, we don’t exactly know how things work with homeopathy, therefore we exactly can’t say that it doesn’t work?

    I meanl look at quantum physics. We still don’t understand why one thing can be at two different places. Actually the world of quantum physics is THAT blurry and there are LAWS only because we are not yet able to check out smaller things than particle X (which we directly can’t see but just assume it is there because we can measure it.

    I mean come on, THE REAL PROBLEM why homeopathy does NOT work for MOST people is because they don’t pay exact attention on how to use it. YES, there are lots of dumbheads out there trying to replace the classical medicine with homeopathy and risk lives of people, I 100% agree. YES, there are people out there who are just clown pretending to know what they are talking of.

    We today know that every human is different. We know that every human reacts to specific things differently than to others. We know that every child develops different than others. Some kids can walk with 1 year, some kids lean it with 2 years, some kids learn it with 6, some kids cannot talk until three years and suddenly ask “May I have the butter please”.

    Therefore, since every human is different there are different variations and doses. It is a long process to find the right homeopathic “medication” and the right dose, but once found it might work. I have a living example at home. My daughter got a cold and as soon as we use homeopathic substance X in dose Y is just takes three days and the sniff is gone. If we use school medicine stuff it sometimes takes a lot more longer. This didn’t happen once, but everytime we did it.

    You guys say, homeopathy can not work since the dose is that small some herbs are not even there anymore and just small atomic parts or even the dose is that low that that not even atoms or quarks should exist anymore … but I am just asking, only because we 100% didn’t discover the very tiniest part even beyond quarks it does not mean we know for sure whats going on.

    In my opinion this is why most atheists have always agnostic tendencies, because they are clever enough to know, “I cannot 100% proove it, but I really have a problem with it that people say, homeopathy doesn’t work at all, only because they never really paid attention on how to use it!

  45. Thomas Siefert

    Alex Said:
    My daughter got a cold and as soon as we use homeopathic substance X in dose Y is just takes three days and the sniff is gone. If we use school medicine stuff it sometimes takes a lot more longer. This didn’t happen once, but everytime we did it.

    That is hardly a scientific approach.
    I have had lots and lots of colds in my life and being a bit of wimpy guy who hate being sick, I have studied cures intensively. There is none. Once you got it, you got it.
    Not two of my colds have run the same course or had the same duration. Three days of sniffles are not an unusual average.
    The only “treatment” I subject myself to is the containment of symptoms. Pain relief for the headaches and soothers for the throat (when the soothers pack mention that “excessive consumption may have a laxative effect”, believe it…).

  46. @Alex
    Treat a cold it will last 7 days. Don’t treat a cold it will last a week.

  47. @Alex
    It really doesn’t matter what the mechanism for homeopathy is, or isn’t.
    Does it work?
    No randomised controlled double blinded study has ever shown homeopathy to have any efficacy better than a placebo.

  48. Mark Hansen

    Crystal, if you’re reading replies and not just drive-by trolling, what was the name of the product that you found to have helped you?

    Alex, you said in part;
    “…My daughter got a cold and as soon as we use homeopathic substance X in dose Y is just takes three days and the sniff is gone. If we use school medicine stuff it sometimes takes a lot more longer…
    When you use the “school medicine stuff” how long does it take when it isn’t “a lot more longer”?

  49. Michel

    I´m going to get very very very rich.
    I going to be a homeopathic drug dealer[TM]!
    I simply make the client believe they are on the best trip ever and how healthy it is. Plus: the law can´t bust me since it is undetectable!
    Crossing borders?
    No prob!
    Dam, I´m smart!
    Now I´m going to bake the lousiest spacecake ever and start my empire.

  50. Michel

    @25. Crystal Says:
    February 5th, 2011 at 3:55 pm
    I have had a serious female issue

    @39. Lalitha Says:
    February 5th, 2011 at 7:23 pm
    Well guys,
    I don’t know much about the science behind it,But homeo has helped my mother with severe gynecological problems.

    Ah yes. The Road to Wellville.
    Dr. Lionel Badger is the one to consult.

  51. Bee

    As I had to notice recently, homeopathy is very widespread among midwifes for treatment of all sorts of pregnancy and postpartum issues. Of which there are plenty. I was amazed when I was offered homeopathic “remedies” even in the hospital. (To take care of side-effects of a tocolytic, basically a calcium channel blocker, see here for side-effects.) In any case, if you want to pull out the sarcasm, given that pregnant and breastfeeding women are pretty much not supposed to take any medication, this might be a case where homeopathy makes some sort of sense ;-)

  52. @Michel
    If you’re going to traffic homeopathic drugs make sure it is in your checked luggage. They confiscate bottles of water if you’re carrying on.

  53. flip

    #25 Crystal and #39 Lalitha

    I’ve had a problem with coughing/asthma for well over a year. I tried many natural things, like dusting and cleaning, exercise (makes things worse, actually, I end up having an asthma attack doing even 5 minutes of walking), changing my diet and other simple means. The only thing that allows me to breath without coughing/wheezing every five seconds is taking a prescribed inhaler that has steroids as a component. In fact, if I don’t take the inhaler every 12 hours, I find I can’t breath properly and start coughing again.

    Yep, anecdotal evidence works both ways. Thankfully, at least the inhaler has science to back it up. (And no yucky side effects! Unless you call being able to breath a side effect)

    Also Lalitha, I don’t think you understand how things work. If it works, it can be proven to work. If it can be proven to work, then it is scientific.

  54. Michel

    @Shane
    Thanks! Almost forgot about that.

  55. flip

    #40. amphiox

    Oh, and if you wanted to turn the entire ocean into a homeopathic remedy I think you might need an impact event to succuss it.

    So that’s what really happened to the dinosaurs, then? All the water on the planet was turned into a homeopathic poison of dino pee?

    Oh, so *that’s* what oil is! Dino pee! ;)

  56. Alex

    Damn, wrote a pretty long answer but it doesn’t get through. The short version now :)

    I wasn’t talking the whole cold was gone in 3 three day, I just ment the sniff. If we don’t give her Pulsatilla C200 it stays 7, if we do, sniff is gone without three days. Does happen every time.

    Here are more points: These blind studies are not valid in my opinion with homeopathy. Just to compare the ridiculousness level it would be the same to hand out cigarettes to 100.000 and all smoke at the same time – then after 10 minutes the experiment leaders asks: Anyone got cancer? No? Okay, see?! :)

    Same would be taking 100.000 people suffering from epilepsy and hand out 100mg of Keppra. Does it work on all? No, does it work on some. Maybe? Does it work on noone actually. Yes, could be too. But this is not because Keppra does not work, it means that every person is different and needs special treatment and observation. You can NOT hand out one dose of one medication and if it doesn’t work out, its crap.

    The same goes for psychological treatment. We all know psychological therapy does work most of the time. Can we proof it? Can we have 100 people sit with a therapist and all go home and are healed? No. Each person needs special treatment. Each person is an individual and therefore needs individual care.

  57. flip

    #54, Alex

    I don’t think you understand how trials are designed. Or um, the fact that all science based medicine is indeed given on an individual basis.

  58. Alex

    Forgot one thing: Most of the people talk about Placebo effect. But if you really question it and take a few minutes and think about it. What does Placebo mean? It means that something, disregarding if it worked or not triggered to body to react positively to a e.g. disease, issue or whatever. So in the end what does THIS mean? It means actually that the body is able of triggering self healing functions. Which makes some medications for at least some issues unnecessary! So I am asking, when will there be a manual for humans on how to activate it. Probably never, but it is there. That’s what Placebo actually proofs.

  59. Michel

    Oh and btw… homeopathic beer!!
    youtube.com/watch?v=vNFWNz5Uc7Y

  60. Michel

    @55. flip Says:
    February 6th, 2011 at 5:14 am

    #54, Alex

    I don’t think you understand how trials are designed. Or um, the fact that all science based medicine is indeed given on an individual basis.

    But they use blind twins.

  61. Alex

    @Michel: Yeh I surely have to admit I am no expert on how these tests are done and I am open to everything, but I am convinced that you simply can’t invite people, ask them for a disease and give them globuli X. Homeopathy has to be used as a doctor finds the right medication for an epilepsy patient.

    Please get my point. I am not comparing scientifically proofed medication such as for epilepsy (although scientists still don’t know how Keppra works – but it does!) with homeopathy. I am just taking about the actual individual time of finding the right dose and right medication.

  62. Michel

    “I am not comparing scientifically proofed medication such as for epilepsy”

    Yeeaah that was a hell of a test. A real bitch. To find a epileptic blind twin.
    But hey that´s science!
    (that lousy spacecake came out better as expected)

  63. Alex

    Michel, you either missread or I expressed it wrong. Again I am not comparing scientific proofed medications with homepathy nor would I ever dare to leave out epileptic medication and replace it with homeopathic stuff … nor do I talk about blind or doubleblind studies.

    All I am saying is, that if you want to find or test homeopathic stuff it could take a few weeks until found the right dose and the right globuli. You might try 50 different globuli and it wouldn’t have any effect. Then the 51st might in the right dose might work and everytime … but then again not for every other person but just for that individual.

  64. One Eyed Jack

    Has anyone ever attempted to bring a lawsuit against one of the major drugstore chains based on false advertising?

    There is an assumption by consumers that when you purchase a medicine off a drugstore shelf, that it contains actual medicine. Regardless of what the product manufacturer may or may not claim, the drugstore is making an implied claim of efficacy by placing them on their shelves alongside real medicine.

    It would be an interesting angle.

  65. @Alex
    I just had to look up globuli. It is a sugar pill infused with “homeopathic” water right?
    According to this it is anyway.
    What has the type of sugar pill got to do with the efficacy of the medicine? I thought it was all down to the homeopathic preparation?

  66. One Eyed Jack

    Alex #59 writes:

    (although scientists still don’t know how Keppra works – but it does!)

    Yet homeopathic remedies have been shown repeatedly to have no efficacy beyond the placebo effect. Do you truly not see the problem with your position?

  67. flip

    #58, Michel

    LOL! Maybe the blind twins prove that Virgo is a placebo.

    #59, Alex

    No, what you don’t seem to be understanding is that if it works, it works. Whether it’s for meds for epilepsy or homeopathic substances. Meds for epilepsy go under trials and have been proven to work. Homeopathic substances also get trials: and have been shown not to work.

    The only difference is that you seem to think science applies for one substance, and doesn’t apply to another.

    As for your opinion that it takes a while to find the right dose – this happens all the time in medications for mental illness. Scientifically proven medications are adjusted on dosage for individual patients. Again, it is simply that these medications have been proven to work, and homeopathic ones haven’t.

    Making this about the dosage is a strawman argument. No doctor would say that the hand out treatments like a factory floor line. Each treatment and prescription would be given based on the individual person. It’s just that medical treatments are designed to work for as many people as possible: whereas homeopathic ones make themselves appear to be ‘per person’ but are in fact, not.

  68. Michel

    @Alex
    Just messing with you. ;)

  69. Joseph G

    I love James Randi. He’s like the bizzarro-world Santa Claus.
    “No, Virginia, I don’t exist.” :P

  70. Alex

    @flip: Hey, I am in a kind of a weird situation myself, to be honest. I am a sceptic. I question things and if I don’t understand anything I do research, but homeopathic is a topic I never believed in or trusted. Then suddenly I have seen it working with success. If my daughter got a cold, sniff is gone within three days, if there is a time she gets kind of whiny and bad moody, some few globuli and she you could see her brighten up. If we don’t do it, then sniff stays, bad mood too. Do you really wanna tell me it is on accident all the time? Sniff and her mood actually behaved like this only because it was supposed to be like this at that day.

    Yes, it is bullsh*t to:
    - write “in case of overdose” on homeopathic packages.
    - replace important medications such as vaccine against measels with homeopathic stuff.
    - that there a people around telling you: Hey, you lost a leg. No worries, just drag a little globuli and within weeks you will three new lets!

    I know there are lots of clowns out there, but the point is, I SEE something working … and to be honest isn’t it really that bad if something on this basis works instead of ruining e.g. the nasal mucosa with all those sometimes too hardcore medications, sprays and stuff?

    Finally, I am just saying (and please this has nothing to do with God or something spiritual) but as long as we are not able to check out what’s behing the background radiation or whats really going on in the sometimes blurry world of quantum mechanics – we just can’t be 100% sure.

    Even more finally! :) … is homeopathy really THAT dangerous if you compare it to all the sh*t going on in the classical pharmaceutical way? I am talking about badly replaced joints, cancer treatments, panic causing because of swine, bird, fart flu? :D

  71. Joseph G

    @#34 Martha: For Crystal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0W7Jbc_Vhw

    Oh my hov’rin’ spaghetti! You made my day, seriously. That’s the funniest damn thing I’ve seen all week :D I SO want to have drinks with that guy! :P

  72. Michel

    A high strength homeopathic solution is:
    a) more deluted
    b) less deluted

  73. fk

    #68: more deluded

  74. flip

    #67, Alex

    As the others point out, there could be many other reasons that your daughter’s sniffle resolves. One glaringly obvious one is that three days for a sniffle to go just sounds like a normal cold left untreated. I have colds: I do nothing and they clear up after a few days. Also, see my comment #51. Anecdotal evidence works both ways.

    Secondly, anecdotal data amounts to nothing. ‘Seeing it with your own eyes’ doesn’t mean it works. It just means you believe it does. If you were a sceptic, then maybe you should be looking more into the trials and ‘proof’ of homeopathic medicine.

    Thirdly, quantum mechanics has * all to do with whether medicine works or not.

    Fourth, just because we don’t fully understand quantum mechanics doesn’t mean we also don’t understand anything else in the world. We know the world is round. We also know the sun is a star in our galaxy. Not understanding quantum mechanics does not suddenly cancel out the world’s roundness or the star’s position in the universe. We aren’t 100% sure what’s going on with gravity either, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do tests to prove that there is an effect.

    Again, a trial is a trial and you can’t pick and choose what is scientific medicine and what isn’t. If it is shown to work, it’s medicine. If it’s shown not to work, it’s not medicine.

    Fifth, the “what’s the harm” angle can be answered with a link:
    www. whatstheharm .net

    Sixth, yes there are problems with science based medicine. But at least it is known to work. Not all of the time, but it works 100% more than homeopathy, which doesn’t work at all.

  75. Michel

    “but it works 100% more than homeopathy, which doesn’t work at all.”

    That´s why our forefathers didn´t drink water.
    Doesn´t work.
    Beer however does.

  76. Joseph G

    @67 Alex: Even more finally! … is homeopathy really THAT dangerous if you compare it to all the sh*t going on in the classical pharmaceutical way? I am talking about badly replaced joints, cancer treatments, panic causing because of swine, bird, fart flu?

    Interestingly, when homeopathy was first invented, homeopathic hospitals actually had better survival rates then conventional hospitals of the time. Of course, this was a time when bloodletting was the accepted treatment for a wide range of diseases, medicines were untested and contained everything from opium to lizard kidneys, and germ theory was unheard of. In that context, placebo treatments and a focus on cleanliness and good nutrition actually were better then “conventional” medicine.
    But we’ve come a very long way over the last 180 years or so. “Wash your hands and eat your veggies” is pretty much common knowledge. There’s certainly always room for improvement, but asking if homeopathy is dangerous compared to medicine with real effects is patently unfair. Of course homeopathy is “safe” – it doesn’t have any effect. You have to have effects before you can have side effects. Closing your eyes and imagining yourself at your destination is also a safer method of travel then driving :P

  77. One Eyed Jack

    @ Alex #67

    “I am a sceptic”.

    Insert obligatory Inigo Montoya quote.

    Continuing on…

    “If my daughter got a cold, sniff is gone within three days, if there is a time she gets kind of whiny and bad moody, some few globuli and she you could see her brighten up.”

    Three days is pretty standard for an untreated cold. Cold medicine does not speed recovery from a cold. It lessens the symptoms.

    Have you ever considered that your daughter, who (like most children) puts a great deal of trust in authority figures, feels better because she believes you when tell her the “medicine” will do so? That’s textbook placebo effect.

    “Yes, it is bullsh*t to:
    - write “in case of overdose” on homeopathic packages.”

    You contradict yourself. If you believe homeopathic remedies are efficacious, then you should be concerned with overdoses. Either there is something there or not. You don’t get to have it both ways.

    “… as long as we are not able to check out what’s behing the background radiation or whats really going on in the sometimes blurry world of quantum mechanics – we just can’t be 100% sure.”

    You read a lot of Deepak Chopra, don’t you?

    “… is homeopathy really THAT dangerous if you compare it to all the sh*t going on in the classical pharmaceutical way? I am talking about badly replaced joints, cancer treatments, panic causing because of swine, bird, fart flu?”

    You’re right. Things were much better in the Dark Ages. A life expectancy of 40 is much better than 78. /sarcasm

    To pick out the short comings of modern medicine and ignore the benefits is being willfully obtuse.

  78. jearley

    Regarding filing complaints about homeopathic medicine: My wife has arthritis, and she asked me to check for information about Cobroxin, which was supposedly a treatment for it. I saw that it was homeopathic Cobra venom. The dilution was either 10^-4 or 10^-5, depending on which ‘strength’ you got. I started thinking about this, and maybe 10^-4 cobra venom might actually have an effect. As in a very bad effect. So, I wrote to the FDA, about it ( the manufacturer claims to have applied to the FDA for registration) The FDA says that they ever heard of the stuff, and that they don’t regulate homeopathic medicines (makes sense- they don’t work, and they are just water) BUT- cobra venom at that concentration, should have some effect, so it is NOT homeopathic. I got nowhere with FDA, and gave up.
    Talk about real snake oil…
    Anyway, the stuff indeed has studies about cobra venom to back it up. The studies are mostly from the British figuring out how much venom it takes to kill a dog. That has real relevancy to arthritis, I am sure.
    So, I left wondering if it might have some sort of real effect, other than death. I see the problem here as something that might have some use, if it was not masquerading as homeopathic medicine. Needs real testing, but if I were a pharmaceutical company, I would not want my company tainted by the homeopathic label.
    So, what happens if a homeopathic remedy actually did something, because it had enough of a really potent ingredient. Can you get away with selling it if you claim that it is homeopathic, without the usual controls and studies? This is way out of my field, anyone out there with some knowledge about how the laws work on this?

  79. amphiox

    Interestingly, when homeopathy was first invented, homeopathic hospitals actually had better survival rates then conventional hospitals of the time.

    Reminds me of a satirical cartoon dating to that period showing a physician and a homeopath arguing over a hapless patient cowering in his bed between them.

    Physician “Give him your treatment, and he will die from the disease!”
    Homeopath “Give him your treatment, and he will die from the cure!”

    The conventional hospitals of the time cannot be said to have anything to do with modern scientific medicine, as they are the last relic of the period before scientific medicine. What they really were, were traditional European medicine (backed up by 3000 years of cultural experience!).

    One should bring this factoid up every time someone touts the boons of “traditional X medicine”. In a direct comparison, traditional medicine does worse than homeopathy.

  80. Beelzebud

    And now my favorite Randi joke:

    A homeopath recently overdosed.

    He forgot to take his medication.

  81. amphiox

    So, what happens if a homeopathic remedy actually did something, because it had enough of a really potent ingredient. Can you get away with selling it if you claim that it is homeopathic, without the usual controls and studies?

    Not a legal expert here, but one would think that calling something with an active ingredient present at a concentration greater than the claimed homeopathic dilution factor, and calling it homeopathic, would constitute fraudulent advertising.

  82. Kathi Kö

    @71 Alex:

    In case of your sniffy daughter a trial means:
    Take several hundred children, which are about of the age of your daughter and all of them have a cold. Divide them into two groups: A control group that takes placebos and a group that takes globuli. That there is no proof, that homeopathy works means, that the children will averagely stop sniffing after the same time, no matter in which group they are. I bet, the result will be the same, if individual globuli are offered.

    What does this mean in your case?
    A placebo will work as well as homeopathy, if you don’t know wheter it is a placebo or not.
    The described 3 days are subjective (it is comparable to superstition).

    You give your child a pill, when she is whiny or bad moody? Are there any globuli against shouting, running or watching TV?

  83. Gary Ansorge

    50. Michel

    “I simply make the client believe they are on the best trip ever and how healthy it is.”

    Not even dopers are THAT stupid but feel free to try it. Just remember, they might apply the New York Peace Maker,,,a two by four to the knees,,,

    “Plus: the law can´t bust me since it is undetectable!”"

    In the late ’60s, an entrepreneur was selling bags of grass on an LA street corner, for $10.00 each. When the cops busted him and discovered the bags actually were just plain old lawn grass, they charged him with fraud.

    Just saying,,,

    Way back in the Dark Ages(1960s), an experiment was done with LSD vs a placebo. Some of those who received the placebo claimed they were high but even the experimenters could tell the difference between THEIR behavior and those who actually received the 100 micro gram dose of LSD.

    Note: a 100 ugm dose of acid in an 8 oz cup of water is one part active ingredient to 2.3 million parts inactive. That’s ALMOST homeopathic,,,

    Gary 7

  84. Michel

    partypooper
    grmbl

  85. Joseph G

    @80 amphiox: The conventional hospitals of the time cannot be said to have anything to do with modern scientific medicine, as they are the last relic of the period before scientific medicine. What they really were, were traditional European medicine (backed up by 3000 years of cultural experience!).
    One should bring this factoid up every time someone touts the boons of “traditional X medicine”. In a direct comparison, traditional medicine does worse than homeopathy.

    Haha, excellent point.
    Just to clarify, I wasn’t defending homeopathy, simply pointing out why it may have gained a following in the first place.
    This seems to be a common human foible – take an idea that (for all its flaws) actually makes sense in the time and place in which it was conceived, and cling to it loooong after it’s been eclipsed by much better ways of doing things.

  86. Michel

    @83. Gary Ansorge Says:
    February 6th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    50. Michel

    “I simply make the client believe they are on the best trip ever and how healthy it is.”

    Not even dopers are THAT stupid but feel free to try it. Just remember, they might apply the New York Peace Maker,,,a two by four to the knees,,,

    ——— The clientele I seek is that stupid.

    “Plus: the law can´t bust me since it is undetectable!””

    In the late ’60s, an entrepreneur was selling bags of grass on an LA street corner, for $10.00 each. When the cops busted him and discovered the bags actually were just plain old lawn grass, they charged him with fraud.

    ——— He sold grass for grass. I intend to delute the real stuff/dope/mccoy
    so no fraud. The fact it isn´t here doesn´t say it wasn´t there…

    Just saying,,,

    Way back in the Dark Ages(1960s), an experiment was done with LSD vs a placebo. Some of those who received the placebo claimed they were high but even the experimenters could tell the difference between THEIR behavior and those who actually received the 100 micro gram dose of LSD.

    ———- See my other post with link on homeopathic beer

    Note: a 100 ugm dose of acid in an 8 oz cup of water is one part active ingredient to 2.3 million parts inactive. That’s ALMOST homeopathic,,,

    ———— I´ll try with an eyepatch to make it a halfblindtest

    Gary 7

    ————– of 9?

  87. Gary Ansorge

    87. Michel

    “————– of 9?

    No, the ORIGINAL Star Trek, just Gary 7, a visitor to a small, blue planet,,,

    G7
    PS. The reason we aliens are stronger than humans? Earth is on the puny side, of planets with carbon based life. MY planet is much larger, with a surface gravity of 1.67 Gs,,,

  88. Keith Bowden

    @#34 Martha
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I LOVED IT! (How have I never heard of him before?)

  89. Dave Mundt

    Greetings and Salutations…
    As the son of a scientist, I am highly skeptical about the whole homeopathy thing. If it has ANY positive effects on folks it is through the placebo effect, as the mind is an amazingly powerful thing, and faith can move mountains. No matter how one spins it, though, the “medicine” created by this dilution is nothing but water, and, water does not have some magical ability to “vibrate” or “Echo” the chemicals put into it. Water is nothing more than water.
    One of the hallmarks of science is that of repeatable results. Given the information on how a particular experiment is done, ANY scientist should be able to repeat it, and get the same results as the original investigators. It seems to me that one of the hallmarks of homeopathy is that how well it works depends on which way the wind is blowing when a person is given a dose. I understand that the human body has differing responses to medications, but, for example, if I take a dose of Robitussin, I get the same range of results, no matter WHO I am. It may work a bit better or a bit worse, but, it always gives the same sorts of results.
    @Alex – One thing I did not see you mention was a small experiment. The next time your daughter has the sniffles, simply give her plain water (or even better – distilled water) and TELL her it is the treated water that will help her. It would not surprise me if at least 8/10 times this will have exactly the same effect at clearing up the sniffles as giving her the treated water. Actually, since you may not be able to pull this off, I would suggest getting a neutral, third party to give her the dose.

  90. Alex

    Hey everyone and thanks for your constructive criticism and replies. I highly appreciate this!
    Again being a sceptic it is weird when you actually see something working. I thought long about if I should write this, but what to loose! To make sure in the beginning I am no kind of troll or so. What I write is what I experienced. It is not just the sniff or the bad mood (Yes, Kathi, I am convinced you really never paid attention to homeopathy in the right way, that’s why you come up with those blind tests saying that all kids should react the same. This is NOT how it works. Thats why I brought in epilepsy medication. Give 100 kids the same dose. Even though the epilepsy medication is 100% scientifically proofed, on some kids it has NO effect at all! Believe me, I know what I am talking about! .. however and please have that in mind, that I am still sceptic in a way regarding homeopathy, but … here we go :)

    Okay back to topic. My daughter is heavily handicapped. We are in care of very very good (real) doctors, we never experiment by replacing medication with homeopathy or anything like it (hell, never!!) … BUT, it is actually really weird when lots of specialists try to find the right epilepsy medication and it takes around three years showing slow effect and stuff and THEN suddenly my wife comes along, found a good homeopathic doctor (which also studied classical medicine) gives my daughter a homeopathic cure (in combi and by not replacing the normal medication) and suddenly 70% of the visible epilepsy disappears!?!?!? I mean come on guys, even the hardest 100% convinced atheist and hardcore sceptic would raise at least 0,0003 eyebrows, no? Sure, all 100% coincidence. Yes, I am aware that the brain restructures and that we actually didn’t explore the brain so far and it could happen by itself or suddenly after 6 weeks of raising a dose from the normal medication it could show effect (but still, doctors say at least within 1-4 weeks it should show effect) BUT again, if you see all kinds of positive things happen after always there was homeopathy in the game, it becomes a bit weird. But yes sure, randomly and on accident all those situations could have happened. Like two people on the table starting with the same phrase or words for about 3 minutes.

    It becomes much more weird … and please I would appreciate don’t laughing at me.
    I recently had a chat with my dad (I live quite a bit away from home in another city). He told me that our dog was about to die, they were about to drive to the doctor since he was in such pain, heavily breathing, kind of seizures, moving in a weird way. Before they decided to drive to the doctor my mom said, “Hey let’s try something. What can we loose?” She threw our dog a few little globuli of what she thought would help, suddenly he jumped up and was as vital as before. Sure, all accident, all random happening, … just like hardlining Christians think that God helped them to find their carkeys :o ) …

    I hope you understand where I am coming from. So if you see it working all around you in all kinds of positive ways, then why should I bother about stupid blind tests which actually get how homeopathy works wrong anyway?! Seriously and again. Think epilepsy medication, you cannot just throw one medication to 1000 testers and see success on all. Just on a few, maybe noone. The right dose, the right medication and the right time.

    Sure, sounds weird, but this is what I experienced everytime when I talk with sceptics about homeopathy. It always goes like this:

    guy: So you say homeopathy worked on your daughter?
    me: Yes
    guy: Hm, what did you use?
    me: Well, pelase consider that every child is different and it takes a bit to find the right medication and right dose
    guy: Ah yes, sure. So what did you use.
    me: naming the medication and the dose
    guy: Okay, cool, I will try that,

    … next days ….

    guy: Hey, I tried the stuff you told me. Didn’t work as expected!!
    me: (thinking) How the f*ck did I already know that this is going to happen happen, the guy just didn’t want to listen.

    Hope you get my point.

    @Dave: Yes, I will try the tests on the next sniff, but we did a while ago. Didn’t give her the globuli, sniff stayed longer, no chance to breath right in the night. Always waking up. With globuli, sniff was gone within three days and she could breath freely …. aaaaaand so on.

    Again please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that homeopathy could replace a cancer medication or bring back your lost arm or leg. I am just saying that I can imagine that it works on small stuff and helps supporting in a way … even though the dog stuff I told earlier … well, now I am laughing, but again … I have no reason to tell you sh*t!

    Now one last thing, since I am out of here and got some work to do:
    Placebo effect. Even if there is something called Placebo effect. Doesn’t this actually mean that the body healed itself only by incepting a thought because of a fake medication which wasnt working … if so, then we should have (I express it in the superman-ish way) the powers of self healing inside us. We should be able to regenerate much better, more intensive and more issues than we are already capable of.

  91. flip

    #91, Alex

    Yeah, once again, the only thing you have is anecdotal. And an anecdote from someone else.

    BUT, it is actually really weird when lots of specialists try to find the right epilepsy medication and it takes around three years showing slow effect

    [snip] gives my daughter a homeopathic cure (in combi and by not replacing the normal medication) and suddenly 70% of the visible epilepsy disappears!?!?!?

    My question would be: what if it was just this ‘slow’ effect of the science based medicine that ‘cured’ your daughter? The homeopathic stuff didn’t have any effect, but had convenient timing in that you gave it to her around the time the SBM started working.

    Correlation isn’t causation.

    Yes, I am aware that the brain restructures and that we actually didn’t explore the brain so far and it could happen by itself or suddenly after 6 weeks of raising a dose from the normal medication it could show effect (but still, doctors say at least within 1-4 weeks it should show effect) BUT again, if you see all kinds of positive things happen after always there was homeopathy in the game, it becomes a bit weird.

    Then you give a whole bunch of reasons for the effect, but still focus on the homeopathic stuff as the ‘cure’. You can’t figure out which variable is causal based on anecdote, which is why they invented medical trials in the first place.

    So if you see it working all around you in all kinds of positive ways, then why should I bother about stupid blind tests which actually get how homeopathy works wrong anyway?!

    Because as we explained above, and you either don’t understand or chose to ignore, there is such a thing as CONFIRMATION BIAS. Your eyes can lie to you. It might not actually be working. There are other things that may have caused an effect. And you can’t tell which one is which without properly eliminating and studying each. ‘Stupid blind tests’ as you call them are necessary to prevent people from doing things which do nothing and waste money, and potentially hurt them. As for the second part of that sentence, you’re putting the conclusion before the hypothesis. You’ve already made up your mind that it works, decided the tests are wrong, and gone on your merry way ignoring the actual scientific studies. I would suggest after this statement, that you’re not very sceptical at all.

    Yes, I will try the tests on the next sniff, but we did a while ago. Didn’t give her the globuli, sniff stayed longer, no chance to breath right in the night. Always waking up. With globuli, sniff was gone within three days and she could breath freely

    I don’t see what is so miraculous a cure when it doesn’t work for three days. Have you tried giving her some other kind of medication for the sniff? Something science based? Does the sniff go away in one, three or more days after the other med?

    We should be able to regenerate much better, more intensive and more issues than we are already capable of.

    If placebos were so darn good, then we wouldn’t need surgery. Or any other kind of treatment.

    Your whole argument rests on anecdote and appeal to a “what’s the harm” fallacy. And probably a misunderstanding about what “blind tests” means.

  92. Alex

    Hey flip, thanks! I think I forgot to mention that (or thought I already wrote it). Again, I am not saying that it is possible that something else worked. I just wanted to point out that it looks weird, strange, not understandable if that many positive things always happen if there are homeopathic cures or globuli swallowing is going on. Hope you get me right. Think of 10 situations one prays and suddenly all the time right after that guy prays, something positive might happen …. you might rethink your beliefs for a few seconds, even if it is just seconds. Sometimes you get tricked, but to me it looked/felt that if it was working! :) .. again no beliefs here, just trying to explain the “asthonishment” of the situation :)

    It may absolutely possible that something else did it (for you 100%) and I absolutely take this into consideration for sure. However, I am a full sceptic … and I also remain sceptic if someone wants to state the fact that it 100% does not work. Thats all.

    And just for the blind tests. I basically know what it is, I did read through them again, but still.
    These tests are done with e.g. 100 people getting the same amount of dose, the same medication. Since everyone who is intense into homeopathy tells you that it takes time to find the right thing working. See it as psychological therapists. The first one might be a brilliant guy, but he might be very unsympathetic to you … I hope you get my point. I am NOT comparing science proofed or not proofed stuff. I am just comparing the way of research.

    The homeopathic experiment would be right if:

    - people would be tested over a specific period of time. Let’s say 3 months, trying different medications and different doses on the same e.g. cough/cold/snore/migrane or whatever. Then may have success or not, but then it should work always.

    Again, if a person e.g. has headache again but the cure wouldn’t work on the second time, THEN the test would be right and proof that homeopathic wouldnt work. But it is surely wrong to just have 1000 people, throw them some pills, say swallow it and see whats happening. Isn’t it kind of obvious that something may have gone wrong?

  93. One Eyed Jack

    Alex, #91

    “Again being a sceptic… please have that in mind, that I am still sceptic …”

    I joked at this earlier, but your posts demonstrate that you are not a skeptic.

    A skeptic demands unbiased evidence. You continually ignore the flaws in your anecdotal “evidence” and cast aspersions at the “stupid blind tests” as you put it. “Stupid blind tests” are there to remove as much of the human bias as possible. Anecdotal evidence is rife with bias. That is why it is considered to be extremely weak and flawed.

    We are all very happy that your daughter is feeling better and wish her continued good health. However, your comments make it clear that you fail to understand what skepticism and science are all about.

  94. flip

    #94, Alex

    I basically know what it is, I did read through them again, but still.
    These tests are done with e.g. 100 people getting the same amount of dose, the same medication. Since everyone who is intense into homeopathy tells you that it takes time to find the right thing working. See it as psychological therapists. The first one might be a brilliant guy, but he might be very unsympathetic to you … I hope you get my point. I am NOT comparing science proofed or not proofed stuff. I am just comparing the way of research.

    Once again, you are mistaken. If homeopaths say that it works on an individual basis, then they can design a trial where people of roughly the same background/health issues/etc. are paired up and compared: one getting a placebo and one getting the homeopathic substance. Or they could run 500 different trials with the same bunch of people, but getting different doses for each trial. They could then analyse the results and see if people are getting better more than what would be expected by placebo and chance alone.

    Again, if a person e.g. has headache again but the cure wouldn’t work on the second time, THEN the test would be right and proof that homeopathic wouldnt work. But it is surely wrong to just have 1000 people, throw them some pills, say swallow it and see whats happening. Isn’t it kind of obvious that something may have gone wrong?

    And that’s really not how science works. Science is REPEATABLE. One study isn’t done, lots are done. And done in different ways. And then a whole bunch of studies are collected together and analysed for any patterns. They do this again and again and again. And after all that NUMEROUS studying, homeopathy still hasn’t proven to have any effect at all. Just because you think the scientists don’t bother to recheck their results doesn’t mean they actually don’t. If you think that, I’m not sure you understand the actual concept of what science is. You have taken a conclusion and fit the tests into it: it must work, therefore the tests are wrong. You have it backwards: you start with the tests, THEN make a conclusion.

    It’s also not obvious at all ‘”what’s going wrong”. Please explain what you mean by this.

    How about this: go out and look at Pubmed, or any science based journal of medicine. Come back with a trial that proves homeopathy works, AND includes the above methods (ie. different doses, results taken after the substance given, and again later on, with different people, double-blinded and placebo controlled). Then maybe we can talk.

    Until then, anecdote does not equal data.

    … Also, what One Eyed Jack said at #95.

  95. So, I wrote up a little post on Hyland’s Calms Forte Sleep Aids, which Randi has used in some of his talks on homeopathy. Not exactly a real homeopathic product. Much like their recalled teething tablets (contained deadly nightshade) or Zicam’s nasal spray that contained zinc.

  96. I’ve been overdosing on homeopathy every day since 25th November, on homeopathic sleeping pills. I took a whole back for 10:23

    http://furtherthoughtsfortheday.blogspot.com/2011/02/1023-challenge.html

  97. Peptron

    Where I live, I noticed that the homeopathic medicines at the store where I go are actually normal medicines (ie: they have the same active ingredients as normal medicines) but are called homeopathic to give them some sort of “natural/herbal” feel about them. From what I understand, they use “homeopathic water” + real medicine so they do not to get sued for fraud. So taking a whole bottle to show that homeopathy doesn’t work could be VERY harmful where I live (Quebec).

  98. Digital Atheist

    How Science leads to medicine:

    In South America there is a nasty venomous peice of work called the Jararaca. While studying patients who had been bitten by Jararacas, doctors noticed that one of the side effects of the venom was a decrease in blood pressure.

    In time, a peptide was isolated and led to the creation of Angiotensin-converting Enzyme Inhibitors such as the one I take daily… Lisinopril.

    I know that was short and not too informative, but a lot of work went into developing and testing these medicines. Diluting them in water will NOT lower my blood pressure, nor will it lower anyone elses. STOP THE WOO!

    While the whole idea of giving some one minute doses of something they have an allergy to may (at least in some studies) help them build up their tolerance, diluting them to the point they don’t exist will not help at all. If water can retain the memory of a substance, then why doesn’t a drop or two of bourbon in a tall glass of water make me drunker than a tall glass of bourbon with a drop or two of water in it?

  99. mike burkhart

    Look this has been around for years , in the 1800s it was called snake oil you had many salesmen makeing claims about medicines that were often nothing more then water and sugar , this is just the latest. Of course not all Phoney mediciens were bad, Coke and Pepsi use to be sold as cure alls but they droped the health cliames and are still enjoyed as softdrinks by manny like me.

  100. One Eyed Jack

    #101 mike burkhart

    As you may be aware, when Coke and Pepsi were first created both contained “medicines” in their original formulations. Coke contained cocaine and Pepsi contained digestive aids that supposedly acted similar to pepsin.

    They were far from being cure-alls, but they did have active ingredients in their formulations.

  101. CB

    @ Alex:

    Again, if a person e.g. has headache again but the cure wouldn’t work on the second time, THEN the test would be right and proof that homeopathic wouldnt work. But it is surely wrong to just have 1000 people, throw them some pills, say swallow it and see whats happening. Isn’t it kind of obvious that something may have gone wrong?

    How do you think they test the efficacy of acetaminophen or ibuprofen in curing headaches, joint aches, or reducing fever? They don’t just throw pills at 1000 people and see what happens. They look at people specifically suffering from headaches or joint aches and see how the medicines affect at them at various dosages compared to a placebo group. A placebo group who, without fail, shows some effect from the sugar pills they were given. Some of the people feel better despite not receiving any actual medicine.

    Just like how you say, anecdotaly, that some people benefit from homeopathic medicine. Statistically, according to the studies that have looked at homeopathic remedies, it’s the same number who benefit from this non-medicine as benefit from the placebo. It’s not about precisely determining the correct amount of nothing to give them, it’s about the placebo effect. And you don’t need to sell someone expensive nothing-pills to make the placebo effect work. Heck, there’s some evidence that placebos work even if the patient knows it’s a placebo.

    Be skeptical of your own anecdotal evidence — the skepticism of a real skeptic must always start with our own beliefs.

    @ Digital Atheist

    If water can retain the memory of a substance, then why doesn’t a drop or two of bourbon in a tall glass of water make me drunker than a tall glass of bourbon with a drop or two of water in it?

    Because homeopathy is sillier than that! See, the ‘memory’ of the substance is kinda like a negative, in that it has the opposite effect of the original substance. So a highly diluted amount of alcohol would cure drunkenness! Which I guess is kinda true at least in this case…

    Oh but if that wasn’t silly enough, it doesn’t even work based on the actual chemicals involved, but rather the high-level symptoms that arise. Yeah, somehow the water “remembers” that alcohol causes lack of motor control, dizziness, memory loss, etc, and works to nullify those effects even if they were not caused by alcohol. So you could probably cure, say, GHB dosing or something with super-diluted alcohol.

  102. @mike burkhart

    So, what? When homeopaths drop the health claims we’ll have a rival for Tic Tacs and Smarties?

  103. Digital Atheist

    Hmmm… in that case something like caffeine (coffee maybe?) should do the exact opposite. Instead of bringing wakefulness and/or energy boost should make me sleepy and staggery… kinda like my bourbon huh? YAY! CHEAP DRUNK!

  104. Astron

    Here’s an idea…
    I don’t know American consumer law but here in Australia fair trading law states that if a product does not preform as expected or as advertised, then the consumer is entitled to a full refund.
    Buy a stores full stock of homeopathic medicines, which are just sugar. Use it to sweeten your tea, coffee, etc. Then take the boxes back for a full refund because it didn’t preform as expected and cure ailment X. You get a massive supply of free sugar, stores will soon stop stocking homeopathic medicine because it’s resultantly unprofitable… The world is a better place.

  105. CB

    @ Digital Atheist:

    Yes, but remember that in homeopathic logic, only once it’s diluted does it do the opposite (as opposed to regular logic, where dilution makes it do the same thing only less so until it doesn’t do it at all anymore).

    And in fact homeopathic preparations of caffeine — like Coffea Cruda, which is just coffee beans before they turn it into just water — are used to treat insomnia and hypertension! Many sites even specifically recommend it to people who drink too much caffeine!

    Which I guess could work if you drank this stuff instead of coffee (as would drinking regular water, or orange juice).

    Which is kinda how the whole homeopathy thing got started — if you gave patients an extremely dilute amount of mercury instead of a totally-not-dilute dose of mercury, the patient miraculously didn’t die! It didn’t do anything positive but hey that still looked pretty good by the standards of 1700s medicine, when rich people who could afford doctors were more likely to die.

    Compared to administering elemental mercury, homeopathy is a step up. That’s about all good that can be said of it though.

  106. Nigel Depledge

    Minos (9) said:

    Obviously, they’re not making even all of the 10C dilutions they could from 1ml of active ingredient–that’s 10 million liters.

    Well, first, homeopaths don’t do “direct” dilutions, they do them stepwise. Each dilution step is a 100x dilution (so, for example, 1 mL would be diluted to 100 mL as a single step). Each dilution step is a “C” (C for 100, see?). The number tells you how many steps of 100x dilution they have done.

    So, a 10C dilution is 1 in 10^20.

    A direct dilution of 1 mL to 10C equivalence would be 10^17 Litres. That’s 100,000 cubic km.

    A 30C dilution is 1 in 10^60. To do this directly from 100 µL of starting material would require 10^30 Neptune masses of water (taking the mass of Neptune to be 10^26 kg, which is approximately right).

    IIUC, 30C is a common homeopathic “strength”.

  107. Nigel Depledge

    Crystal (25) said:

    I have had a serious female issue that debilitated me and I tried nearly 50 things from ‘traditional’ medicine. None of them worked, and I would be on the floor basically having labor pains every 28 days – unable to move and barely able to speak. Then I tried this wonderful homeopathy product for my problem, and the damn thing allowed me to walk around and live my life. Has also helped with allergies, headache and several other issues immediately for me and many, many, many other people I know. This article is non-sense written purely because the pharmaceutical companies are finally seeing people figure out that nutrition, vitamins, exercise and other simple means can often cure and aid in most diseases and problems people face. What we put in our bodies directly AFFECTS our bodies. People are figuring it out slowly but surely (and finally), and it’s hurting the pharm exec’s wallets. I’d love to see the money trail that asked for this ‘science’ article to be written.

    In fact, due to the absence of any regulatory oversight of homeopathy, the cost of producing a homeopathic product is trivial.

    OTOH, the cost of discovering, testing and then producing a real drug product is huge. A Phase III clinical trial will typically cost a drug company something in the region of $50,000,000 – $75,000,000. And that says nothing of Phases I and II (which, of course, are cheaper but still costly) or of the initial discovery and the scale-up of production.

    So, in light of the relevant context, do you think the manufacturers of homeopathic products are merely doing what they do out of the kindness of their hearts, or because there is money to be made?

  108. Nigel Depledge

    David George (15) said:

    As for the harm done by selling useless remedies to suckers, I would say that deaths due to useless remedies pale in comparison to the deaths due to procedures and treatment in “good corporate citizen” hospitals, or to use of “approved” medicines (those which beat the placebo).

    Eh?

    So, what exactly are you saying here? That modern medicine actually achieves the opposite of its goal? In what universe does that make any sense?

  109. I just found it ironic how mike burkhart (#101) spoke of snake oil directly after Digital Atheist (#100) talked about a medicine made from snake venom.

  110. There was a “spotlight on Homeopathy” video that Phil posted not too long ago. One thing I liked from the video was when they confronted the Homeopathy manufacturer with the fact that they brought the “cures” to the lab and nothing could be found within the vial (except for water). The manufacturer, of course, claimed that science just hasn’t advanced enough to be able to see the medicine in there.

    Let’s put aside the “Homeopathy doesn’t work” issue for a second. The problem I see with the manufacturer’s claim is: How do we know that the company is selling the “medicine” that they are claiming and not just distilled water? There is no regulation so they could be selling “miracle cures” that are just distilled water poured into tubes. How do they do quality control? If you mistakenly added three drops of “cure” to the batch instead of 1, how would they catch that and keep it from going out?

    In other words, even if we were to accept that Homeopathy works (it doesn’t), then the companies making Homeopathic remedies have no method of quality control and we have no method of verifying that they are actually selling us what they say they are selling us.

    “Big Pharma” might be greedy, but they can be held accountable. We can test that Ibuprofen capsule and see that it only contains X grams of active ingredient when it was supposed to have Y grams. If they released sugar pills and called them Extra Strength Ibuprofen, they would get in trouble. The same can’t be said for the manufacturers of Homeopathic “cures.”

  111. @Nigel Depledge,

    It makes perfect sense when you realize that it is a case of cherry picking data. Suppose you have two thousand people who are sick and use traditional medicine. Now, suppose that twenty of them die, but the rest recover. The proponents of Homeopathic medicine will claim that traditional medicine killed 20 people and, had they used homeopathic meds, they would have survived. (They write off the 1,980 people traditional medicine saved as inconsequential as “obviously” their remedy would have saved them as well.)

  112. Dunc

    quality control for homeopathic mixtures are notoriously poor

    You know, this is something that’s been bothering me for a while… In fact, I think it’s my favourite new line of attack with homeopaths: “how can you tell whether you have prepared your remedy correctly?”

    In all kinds of areas, we need to use quality control tests to check that we have actually produced what we think we have. How do homeopaths do QA testing?

  113. Matt B.

    I sooo want to print out some little “Warning: This product is not medicine” labels and put them on the homeopathy products in the store.

  114. Nigel Depledge

    Here’s some irony…

    Mary (38) said:

    That’s a problem with anecdotal reports—there is no establishment of acceptable controls or consideration of possibly other influencing factors. That renders the concluded assumptions quite unreliable.

    And then, in the very next comment, Lalitha (39) said:

    I too after nearly 37 years of asthma have been off inhalers and tablets for the past few years.So I say,Homeo may not be scientific,but it works,like many other inexplicable things in the world

    Lalitha, did you read any of the preceding comments?

    How does you anecdote rule out the possibility of one or more of the following:
    1. Confirmation bias;
    2. Regression to the mean;
    3. The placebo effect?

  115. Nigel Depledge

    Christopher R Vesely, PharmD (43) said:

    A notable example is the FDA’s recent decision to limit the maximum dose of acetaminophen – Tylenol – in prescription medications to 325-mg in order to reduce the potential for liver damage in patients taking large doses of pain medications

    Heh. We have a similar thing over here in the UK – you can’t buy more than 32x 500 mg tablets at a time unless you have a specific need for more.

    But over here we call it paracetamol (which is a contraction of its chemical name para-acetamidoyl phenol), and it doesn’t have any trade names because it’s only a generic.

    I disagree with calling it acetaminophen because it doesn’t contain an amine group – it contains an amide. I could go with “acetamidophen”, though.

  116. Nigel Depledge

    Alex (64) said:

    All I am saying is, that if you want to find or test homeopathic stuff it could take a few weeks until found the right dose and the right globuli. You might try 50 different globuli and it wouldn’t have any effect. Then the 51st might in the right dose might work and everytime … but then again not for every other person but just for that individual.

    Yeah, you seem to have missed that human beings all have essentially the same biochemistry and immunology. Granted, the differences within the population are quite important, but you don’t have a medicine operating by different mechanisms in different people – it’ll be the same biological activity operating to different extents in everyone.

    IIUC, Phase II clinical trials do look at dosing, and physicians are free to adjust the dose of many licensed medicines.

    When homeopathy has been tested in a proper trial, it performed exactly the same as a placebo. Most physicians consider it unethical to prescribe a placebo and tell the patient it will do something that it won’t – even if they know that it will make the patient feel better.

    Homeopathic preparations are very good placebos, but that does not make homeopaths any more ethical for claiming that homeopathy will do things that it really will not do.

  117. @Nigel Depledge

    IIUC, Phase II clinical trials do look at dosing, and physicians are free to adjust the dose of many licensed medicines.

    You are correct. Phase I trials look primarily at safety, which includes fiddling with the dose to figure out how much the human body can handle before bad things start happening. Phase II continues to play with dose to find out which doses produce the desired effects/outcomes. Phase III continues to gather safety data, but focuses more on efficacy. There may still be some dose adjustments in Phase III, but these trials are looking more at establishing that the doses finally decided upon in Phase II actually work the way they should.

  118. Alex

    Thanks again for all your input! I understand that I sound weird regarding homeopathy and as I mentioned before I thought long about wether to write or not :) … thing is, as I say again, it LOOKS weird when you see all these things happening exactly when being treated with homeopathic stuff … don’t you guys know the feeling when buying new stuff and every time something is broken, missing or gets damaged within a few days and you think: Ironically, every time I buy something it is damaged! … another example would be, funny, every time I go outside and wanna do X, it starts raining … disregarding whats proofable, whats not, what we know and still don’t – it was a weird feeling. Please get my point right … and to me, there was always something extremely positive going on when using or getting in contact with homeopathy. I hope this gets it right.

    … and again, being a sceptic means also being a sceptic towards scientists saying that the universe contains 10^80 atoms while still not being able to watch around the “next blocks corner” :) (which I am not saying again that homeopathy 100% works without any doubt … I am just saying it seemed like) … maybe I should that have set clear much earlier .. and yes, maybe I was a bit too hyped about what happened to us/me :)

  119. Nigel Depledge

    Alex (122) said:

    don’t you guys know the feeling when buying new stuff and every time something is broken, missing or gets damaged within a few days and you think: Ironically, every time I buy something it is damaged!

    Yes, this is the well-known post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy (roughly translated as “after this, therefore because of this”).

    … another example would be, funny, every time I go outside and wanna do X, it starts raining

    And this is the reporting bias logical fallacy. How many times have you gone outside to do X and it hasn’t started raining? Do you think you would actually remember every time it didn’t rain when you wanted to do X?

    Richard Feynman used to illustrate this with a cute little example. At the start of a lecture, he’d say “you know, on my way here this morning, I saw a car with the licence plate DGR 592 (or whatever). Isn’t that amazing? I mean, what are the chances of that?”. The point being, of course, that any specific licence plate is as likely to occur as any other, but we only remember the ones that have an obvious meaning.

    … disregarding whats proofable, whats not, what we know and still don’t – it was a weird feeling. Please get my point right … and to me, there was always something extremely positive going on when using or getting in contact with homeopathy. I hope this gets it right.

    That’ll be the placebo effect, plain and simple.

    When homeopathic preparations have been properly tested, they performed exactly the same as a placebo.

    … and again, being a sceptic means also being a sceptic towards scientists saying that the universe contains 10^80 atoms

    While scepticism is a key part of science, being sceptical of something that is supported by the preponderance of evidence is irrational. Just because you might not understand the evidence, or might not be aware of it, when people who study particular phenomena make statements about those phenomena, it is worth your while recognising that not all opinions are equal. They probably do know much more about it than you or I.

    If you find yourself doubting it, that’s fine – but if you are going to express that doubt, you should at least go to the trouble of finding out what the evidence is (from the actual scientists who know about it, not secondhand from some other source).

    while still not being able to watch around the “next blocks corner”

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at here.

    (which I am not saying again that homeopathy 100% works without any doubt … I am just saying it seemed like)

    No-one can rationally claim that homeopathy works, because it doesn’t. Under appropriate test conditions (i.e. a controlled trial) it performs exactly as if it were a placebo. If homeopathy really did work, all of the homeopathic organisations would be conducting clinical trials all over the place to gather the evidence to show that it does work.

    Then, of course, the scientists would sit up and take notice and start trying to work out how it does it. Sadly, all of the evidence that has been collected to date shows that homeopathy has no effect beyond being a placebo. The only rational conclusion is that homeopathy doesn’t work. On top of that, its proposed mode of action has no logical basis and defies the known laws of chemistry.

  120. ratul

    my grandpa used to practice homeopathy…. and i used to sneak those pills a lot. why? cause the tasted like candy.

  121. Wayne on the Plains

    Okay, so I finally did the experiment I outlined in comment #18.

    My daughter has a sore throat, and the pediatrician told us to get some children’s Robitussin. Sitting right next to it on the shelf at CVS were two different homeopathic cough syrups (honey based, meaning presumably you are buying a very expensive bottle of honey). In fact, the Robitussin was significantly cheaper.

    I took the Robitussin and one of the homeopathic ones back to the pharmacist and had the following conversation:
    “My two year old daughter has a cough and I was wondering which one of these you recommend.”
    “Does she have a runny nose, too?”
    “Yes.”
    “Then I’d go with this one (picking up the Robitussin), it has an antihistamine. (Picking up the other one) I’m not sure what’s in this homeopathic one…”
    “Then why do you sell it?”
    “Exactly.”

    My impression was that she was about as impressed with homeopathy as we are, which is comforting, but has little power to take them off the shelf, which is too bad. You’d think that if enough pharmacists got together about it, they could change the corporate policy.

    The other thing that struck me was that the honey bottles were very cleverly marketed. They seemed very much like real medicine, and were recommended down to two years old, while the Robitussin said age six, so if I didn’t know what homeopathy was and hadn’t asked a medical professional, I could have easily picked the fake medicine for my daughter. It makes me sick to think about all of the well-meaning parents giving their children fake medicine without ever realizing it.

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